A week off didn’t do much to recharge the batteries for the Habs as they only managed to pick up a single point over a pair of losses to Toronto and Ottawa.
The Week That Was
Feb. 20: Maple Leafs 5, Canadiens 3 – This was a tale of two separate games. The first period was a defensive battle and the second period was anything but. Toronto scored two quick power play goals as Montreal’s penalty kill continues to struggle mightily but the Habs countered them quickly. Unfortunately, the Maple Leafs added two more before the period was out, the latter of which being one that Carey Price needed to stop. That seemed to derail Montreal’s momentum and they couldn’t get it back.
Feb. 21: Senators 3, Canadiens 2 (OT) – Things got off to a good start as Nick Suzuki scored early to snap his goal drought. That was about it for Montreal’s luck though. Both of Ottawa’s goals in regulation were ones that redirected up and over Jake Allen, landing just past the goal line. Corey Perry was brought up off the taxi squad and made a big impact with a late goal to give the Habs at least one point. They then responded with one of the ugliest overtime efforts in recent memory where it seemed like almost everyone that hit the ice had no idea how to play three-on-three. Not surprisingly, Brady Tkachuk got the winner after Allen made several game-saving stops.
Goals: Tyler Toffoli (11)
Assists: Drouin/Petry (10)
Points: Petry/Toffoli (16)
+/-: Joel Edmundson (+16)
PIMS: Ben Chiarot (32)
Shots: Gallagher/Toffoli (57)
News And Notes
– While Jonathan Drouin left Sunday’s game after taking a bump late in the second period, he is expected to be available for that one so no other recalls from the taxi squad will be needed other than Jake Evans and Paul Byron who were both sent down Monday.
– One player that probably won’t be seeing the taxi squad for a while (if at all) is Corey Perry. His 10th game made him waiver-eligible once again and with Byron clearing waivers earlier in the week, it appears he’ll be sent back and forth while Perry stays on the active roster.
– Going back to last season, Phillip Danault has one goal in his last 40 games. If we add the playoffs in, it becomes two goals in his last 50 games.
Last Game’s Lines:
Drouin – Suzuki – Anderson
Toffoli – Danault – Gallagher
Tatar – Kotkaniemi – Armia
Byron – Evans – Perry
Chiarot – Weber
Edmundson – Petry
Mete – Romanov
The Week Ahead
Feb. 23: at Ottawa – Give the Senators credit, they typically play the Habs tough and despite their record, this year is no exception (so far, at least). Thomas Chabot may be able to return for this one which would give Ottawa a big boost defensively. The youth movement is in full effect with four of their top-five scorers being 22 or younger.
Feb. 25/27: at Winnipeg – The Habs ‘finally’ get to see the Jets for the first time and then will see plenty of them over the next few weeks. Pierre-Luc Dubois has now gone through quarantine and is in Winnipeg’s lineup although they used him on the left wing in their last game. While their top-six group is enviable, it comes at the expense of a quality back end as after Josh Morrissey and Neal Pionk, it goes downhill quickly. But with Connor Hellebuyck in goal, they have someone capable of stealing games which certainly makes them a threat.
The idea of a coaching change is making the rounds as Montreal continues to scuffle and while the idea can’t be dismissed outright, this is going to be a tough year to make a change. The two-week quarantine period applies to coaches too so any hire outside of the organization would be waiting a while to come in and set up their system tweaks; a new system altogether would have to wait.
Some will point to Dominique Ducharme and Joel Bouchard as possible replacements for Claude Julien but Ducharme has a big hand in the special teams strategy that is failing on all levels right now; the blame there isn’t solely Kirk Muller’s. Bouchard doesn’t have two full seasons of AHL coaching experience under his belt and already had a small player revolt of sorts last season. While both are promising coaches, there’s still some ‘development’ to be done.
In a season that has quickly turned to a must-win situation, is a raw rookie with minimal professional experience the one Marc Bergevin should be turning to in order to right the ship? Is it really fair to put one of Bouchard or Ducharme in that situation? Probably not on both counts. You can never say never when it comes to a coaching change but unless things really go off the rails over the next few weeks (not days as some seem to be hoping for), Julien should be safe until the offseason at least. At that point, he’ll be down to one year left on his contract which is usually the time to decide if he’s worthy of an extension or if it’s time to look elsewhere. But that’s a decision most likely kept for May or June, not February.